Parents will be able to sign up for jabs for their five to 11 year-olds within weeks amid a rise in Covid infections. MailOnline has more.
It comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised last month that healthy children in this age range should be offered a vaccine on a “non-urgent” basis.
The rollout, which is expected next month, will involve a special ‘paediatric formulation’ for young children, who will receive a lower dose of the vaccine, and be given two jabs 12 weeks apart.
Among at-risk children, who already receive the jab, adverse reactions are extremely rare. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said “it is a very safe vaccine”.
HART has done a useful summary of the 28 child deaths reported to the U.S. vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS), which (even leaving to one side serious injuries) would raise questions about how safe the vaccines are for young people, particularly given the statistically zero risk to young children from COVID-19.
A fourth vaccine dose should be offered to all adults over-75 and the most vulnerable over-12s this spring and rolled out more widely in the autumn, vaccine advisory body the JCVI says. BBC News has more.
Many of the oldest received their latest shot back in the autumn and this extra dose will help top up protection against severe COVID-19.
An autumn booster programme, aimed at a wider group of people, is also planned.
The U.K. nations are expected to accept the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice.
Up until now, only people with severely weakened immune systems had been eligible for a fourth dose – three doses plus a booster. Those now being offered a second booster this spring, to be administered six months after their previous dose, are:
• adults aged 75 years and over • residents in a care home for older adults • individuals aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed
Adults will be offered a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine while children aged 12-18 will receive Pfizer.
Around 7.2 million people in the UK aged over 75, who have already had their primary course of Covid vaccines, will be eligible for the extra spring booster. Another half a million people who are immunosuppressed will also be eligible for the additional booster.
The JCVI said vaccinating these groups was a “precautionary” move and did not mean there was any current danger to their health.
It comes despite the emerging evidence from Israel that a fourth vaccine dose does little or nothing to reduce spread.
Flu vaccines are adapted each year to try to match the dominant strain of the virus. Even so, their efficacy is very variable. Why, then, are they still using the same Wuhan-based formulation for this vaccine, which successive variants have been progressively evading?
Government vaccine advisory committee the JCVI has advised that a “non-urgent offer” of two weakened doses of the Pfizer vaccine be made to all children aged five to 11 years. In giving this advice, the committee is clear that the vaccines will not prevent infection or transmission and this is not the purpose of vaccinating children: “Protection against non-severe infection due to the Omicron variant is less good and is anticipated to be of relatively short-duration (weeks).” The purpose instead is “to increase the immunity of vaccinated individuals against severe COVID-19 in advance of a potential future wave of COVID-19”.
The committee says this is a “one-off pandemic response programme” and may not carry forward into normal times: “As the COVID-19 pandemic moves further towards endemicity in the U.K., JCVI will review whether, in the longer term, an offer of vaccination to this, and other paediatric age groups, continues to be advised.”
The JCVI acknowledges the prevalence and strength of natural immunity in the age group: “It is estimated that over 85% of all children aged five to 11 will have had prior SARS-CoV-2 infection by the end of January 2022, with roughly half of these infections due to the Omicron variant. Natural immunity arising from prior infection will contribute towards protection against future infection and severe disease.”
As to the benefit of vaccination, the committee admits to a “high level of uncertainty over a range of assumptions in relation to future estimates of disease in children aged five to 11”. Indeed, its estimates of the benefits amount to speculative modelling of future waves, with an acknowledgement there are many unknowns and the level of benefit (if any) depends on how severe future waves are, how soon they appear and how the associated variants interact with vaccine and natural immunity.
We have to ask then, given that children were already at very low risk from earlier, less mild variants and when they had less natural immunity, how can they be expected to derive any real benefit from being vaccinated now that almost all of them have been infected, and now that Omicron – a mild variant which substantially evades the vaccines – is dominant?
If the benefits are uncertain even to exist, the harms are clear. The JCVI notes that in America, 8-10% of the eight million five to 11 year-olds vaccinated reported at least one day absent from school following vaccination. You read that right: around one in 10 had a reaction to the vaccine so severe they had to have time off school.
The risks of vaccinating children against Covid now clearly outweigh the benefits, the Government has been told by a group of MPs and scientists.
In an open letter to the Government’s vaccination advisory committee – the JCVI – the MPs including Miriam Cates, Esther McVey and Sir Desmond Swayne and scientists including Professor Allyson Pollock, Dr Roland Salmon and Professor Brent Taylor write that “the risk to benefit ratio for child Covid vaccination has worsened since September”.
The risks of adverse events (including but not limited to myocarditis) increase as more doses are given, and any advantages are reduced as vaccine effectiveness in suppressing Omicron transmission decreases (especially given widespread natural immunity). Given that any potential benefits of vaccinating children were calculated to be marginal at best in the first place, we suspect that this margin has not only evaporated but actually reversed in light of the characteristics of the new and dominant Omicron variant and the increase in robust and durable naturally-acquired immunity. …
Unlike the elderly and clinically vulnerable population – for whom the potentially life-saving benefits of vaccination substantially outweigh any risks from vaccination – our children face no such threat from COVID-19 yet have 50 or more years of healthy life expectancy ahead of them that could be compromised by long-term vaccine harms. It is crucial that, if we are to proceed with the mass double vaccination of healthy children, we are absolutely certain that this policy will do more good than harm. Furthermore, we need to give consideration to what precedent is being set for triple or even continuous and regular vaccination for this age group.
We believe that the benefit to risk ratio of child vaccination should be reassessed in light of the Omicron variant and new evidence on both vaccine harms and superior natural immunity. We urge the JCVI to review this new evidence and provide updated advice to the Government with regards to the mass vaccination of healthy 12-15 year olds.
Brent Taylor, Professor Emeritus of Community Child Health at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and formerly a JCVI member for eight years, said:
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has declared that the time between receiving the second dose of the vaccine and the booster jab should be cut from six months to only three months, allowing those aged between 18 to 39 years-old to receive one much earlier than expected. The JCVI came to this decision as research has suggested that higher antibody levels are better prepared against the Omicron variant. In addition, the JCVI has approved the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 years-old. The Timeshas more.
The move, which will prove a huge logistical challenge for the NHS, comes after early evidence suggested that higher antibody levels may offer better protection against the variant.
The JCVI is now advising that all adults aged 18 to 39 years-old should be offered a booster dose, in order of descending age groups. Those aged 40 years-old and over are already eligible.
In further advice, young people aged 12 to 15 years-old should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after their first dose.
The JCVI also said that severely immunosuppressed people should be offered a booster dose no sooner than three months after completing their primary course of three doses.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chairman of the JCVI said: “Having a booster dose of the vaccine will help to increase our level of protection against the Omicron variant.
“This is an important way for us to reduce the impact of this variant on our lives, especially in the coming months.
“If you are eligible for a booster, please take up the offer and keep yourself protected as we head into winter.”
The JCVI said that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines can be given as a booster for adults, with equal preference given to both.
Laws requiring facemasks in shops and public transport, along with new quarantine rules for all travellers into Britain, will come into effect at 4am tomorrow. Ministers said that this was a “proportionate” response to the emergence of a variant that scientists believe may be the most dangerous yet.
Conservative backbenchers are pressing for an early vote on the rules after Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, suggested that Parliament may not get a chance to approve the changes until after they are reviewed in three weeks. Ministers have said that the introduction of measures such as working from home and vaccine passports, which are strongly opposed by many Tory MPs, do not require a vote.
Kids as young as five are set to be offered Covid jabs within months under secret NHS plans in spite of Covid posing close to zero risk to children. The Sunhas more.
Leaked proposals show health bosses are preparing to vaccinate children aged between five and 11 next spring.
Officials fear Covid will continue to rage until 2024 – making it necessary to immunise younger Brits.
The U.S. has already begun vaccinating kids as young as five, with Israel set to follow suit within days.
Health bosses have been sworn to secrecy about the spring campaign, with officials concerned the move could spark a backlash from some parents.
Before the rollout can go ahead, U.K. regulators must still green light it for use in under-12s.
And experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation must also approve use in those aged five to 11.
Under the latest “planning scenario”, NHS chiefs predict a regular Covid booster programme will also be needed to protect vulnerable Brits. It forecasts that outbreaks of the virus will continue to 2023/24.
A senior source revealed: “Top secret plans reveal what is at stake if we are to achieve a meaningful victory over Covid. Asking parents for permission to jab kids as young as five is in the schedule.
“It is controversial, but will help us reach our goal.
“Nothing is in the public domain yet, and the plans could change, but jabbing young children is backed by many scientists.” Although youngsters are at much lower risk of falling ill from Covid, they can still spread the virus to vulnerable adults.”
The Zero Covid absolutists at Independent SAGE have, in typical style, denounced the medical and scientific experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation of proposing to use children as “human shields” because it wouldn’t rubber stamp the Government’s decision to vaccinate healthy 12-15 year-olds. Surely, it is the Government that wants to use younger teenagers as “human shields” by insisting on extending the vaccine roll out to them even though the health risks clearly outweigh the health benefits? MailOnlinehas more.
Members of Independent Sage, a vocal group of experts who have clung on to the idea of eliminating Covid, accused the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation of using youngsters as “human shields” to protect adults.
Newly-published minutes from JCVI meetings show that the group first looked at whether letting 12 to 15-year-olds get Covid naturally was better than vaccinating them in spring, months before the rollout was expanded to teens.
Echoing the view of many independent experts, the JCVI accepted allowing the virus to circulate naturally could give youngsters strong immunity and also protect adults — without the risk of side effects from vaccines.
The panel emphasised Covid posed such a tiny threat to children and raised concerns about a heart inflammation condition associated with the jabs in young people.
“Children rarely develop severe disease or die of Covid; even children with underlying comorbidities have a very low risk,’ the JCVI said in its 32nd meeting on May 13.
“There are limited data on Covid vaccine use in children; there is a need to consider the mild transient illness of Covid versus potential rare adverse events associated with vaccination.
“There is an argument for allowing the virus to circulate amongst children which could provide broader immunity to the children and boost immunity in adults.”
The group also considered that children might be better off catching Covid at a young age, when they are at low risk, so that they are less vulnerable in adulthood, as is the case with chicken pox and other viral infections.
Dr Kit Yates, a mathematical biologist at the University of Bath and Independent Sage member, quoted excerpts from a number of JCVI minutes in a lengthy Twitter thread, writing: ‘Anti-vax or JCVI?’
His colleague Professor Alice Roberts, a public health expert at the University of Birmingham, said the views expressed at the meetings were “just appalling”. Other Independent Sage members described them as “upsetting”.
If members of the JCVI can be accused of being “anti-vaxxers”, the phrase has clearly lost any connection with its original meaning and now means “anyone who raises the slightest concern about the Covid vaccines, regardless of their medical or scientific expertise”.
On September 20th, the U.K. Government began its programme of Covid vaccination in schools, having approved the experimental mRNA injections for healthy children between the ages of 12 and 15.
Just over two weeks earlier, the Government’s advisory committee on vaccination and immunisation – the JCVI – announced that they could not, on health grounds, recommend these injections for 12 to 15 year-olds; the margins of benefit were simply too small, they said.
One week after that, the Government’s Chief Medical Advisor, Professor Chris Whitty, trumped the advice of the JCVI, recommending the Covid vaccinations for 12-15 year-olds after all. His word carried the day, and the programme that he sanctioned is now in train.
But on what grounds did Chris Whitty approve the Covid vaccines for children, given that the JCVI declined to approve them on health grounds? He approved them… on health grounds. Offering the vaccines to children of 12 to 15 years would assuage their fear of the virus and help them to feel that the Covid crisis is coming to an end, he claimed, and would therefore be a significant benefit for what he termed their “mental health”.
Such is the wily ascendancy of the concept of ‘health’ that having refused the vaccination of children on health grounds it then granted the vaccination of children on health grounds.
* * *
In his book Plastic Words, Uwe Pörksen described how certain concepts come to acquire infinite flexibility and dominance, enveloping our powers of describing and understanding in their apparently profound ubiquity.
Plastic words are not technical words, Pörksen advised, which are often strictly limited to contexts and therefore of more or less restricted relevance. Plastic words are ordinary words, which have been taken from common parlance, refracted through one or other field of science, and returned to everyday talk with a new, broadened application and a new, somewhat ambiguous, authority.
Examples of plastic words are: “development”, “progress” and “communication”. Banal terms plucked from their historical parameters of use and conferred with a quasi-technicality that is not the less effective for being vague and accommodating.
Unlike jargon words, we can and do use plastic words freely and easily, Pörksen argues. We say that “progress in strategies of communication supports social development”, or that “development of communication styles is linked to progress”. In so saying, we have said very little – these statements do not mean anything, really. But we have also said very much, tapping into a seam of apparently scientific understanding that is sophisticated and worthy of being considered. We have given our talk a modern aura, and availed ourselves simultaneously of the unobjectionableness of common sense and the force of expertise.
Plastic words denote nothing, as Pörksen expresses it – the statement “progress in communication aids development” is nonsense. But plastic words are richly connotative. So much so that they suck the life from more specific, more nuanced, vernacular words, which are overshadowed by the apparent sophistication of plastic words and gradually fall out of favour.
There is an underbelly to using plastic words, however. The air of modern sophistication with which they infuse our descriptions is a thin one. Having revelled in its effect, we are bereft of any real appreciation of the stakes in whatever it is we have used them to describe, and must rely on professional analysis and advice for any substantial judgment. Using plastic words remakes us into clients of experts, Pörksen observes.
For this reason, the more we have recourse to plastic words, the less we are able to accurately describe and understand ourselves, each other and the world around us. Until at last we are at the mercy of expert analysis and advice, even for understanding events and negotiating situations that are quite concrete and personal.
* * *
In this context, it is worth considering what it might be like to use language that is not overshadowed by plastic words.
For this, two letters written by Jane Austen will do very well. They were sent to her sister Cassandra in the penultimate week of the year 1798, when the author was twenty-three and her sister two years older and the latter was staying with their brother Edward for the holiday season.
The first of these letters includes the following:
My Mother continues hearty, her appetite and nights are very good, but her Bowels are still not entirely settled, and she sometimes complains of an Asthma, a Dropsy, Water in her Chest and a Liver Disorder. The third Miss Irish Lefroy is going to be married to a Mr. Courtenay, but whether James or Charles I do not know… (December 1978.)
The second letter includes this:
Poor Edward! It is very hard that he who has everything else in the World that he can wish for, should not have good health too. – But I hope with the assistance of Bowel complaints, Faintnesses and Sicknesses, he will soon be restored to that Blessing likewise. – If his nervous complaint proceeded from a suppression of something that ought to be thrown out, which does not seem unlikely, the first of those Disorders may really be a remedy, and I sincerely wish it may, for I know no one more deserving of happiness without alloy than Edward is. – My Mother’s spirits are not affected by her complication of disorders; on the contrary they are altogether as good as ever; nor are you to suppose that these maladies are often thought of. – She has at times a tendency towards another which always relieves her, and that is, a gouty swelling and sensation about the ancles. – I cannot determine what to do about my new Gown; I wish such things were to be bought ready made…
One striking aspect of these short excerpts is the degree of involvement that they reveal, of two young women in the health concerns of their family members. Jane and her sister might well be expected to be too vibrant themselves to have much care for the low-level aliments of their parent and sibling. But not only are they exercised by these ailments, they trade in the most intimate and specific details about them: even their relations’ bowel movements are discussed, quite unhesitatingly and with interest.
Yet, this is no obsessiveness with matters of health. Jane trips lightly from the water in her mother’s chest to the romantic fortunes of a young neighbour and from the swelling in her mother’s ankles to the question of a new gown. Evidently, details of the condition of bodies and minds are common fare in the sisters’ conversations, woven seamlessly with other strands of daily interest.
Most striking of all in these excerpts, however, is the range of words that they have recourse to: “Dropsy,” “a gouty swelling and sensation”, “Liver Disorder”, “Water in the Chest”, “Faintnesses”, “settled Bowels”, “nervous complaint”, “something that ought to be thrown out”. The sisters are well versed in the lexicon of maladies and remedies, their talk of such matters honed through constant practice.
The word “health” does make an appearance in these excepts – Edward’s “good health” is hoped for. But the word does not dominate, it does not have a special status, it does not overshadow the lively evocativeness of something being “thrown out” or of the “gouty swelling”. For it has yet to be transformed into a plastic word which grants its user the air of being very well-informed and up-to-date but also robs him of Austen-like powers of description and intervention, implicitly rendering him as subject to health institutions and their professionals.
The Invisible Committee, in their book The Coming Insurrection, wrote of the tendency of modern societies to stifle whatever it is that circulates between ourselves so that we are made helpless in negotiating the most basic components of our lives and must rely upon the expertise that is offered to us by institutions – of education, law, care, health, and so on.
A large part of this effect is produced by the roll-out of plastic words, which redirect even the most common pathways for the circulation of all that matters to us in our lives so that they pass through the official channels.
Jane Austen died at the age of 42. While there is dispute as to the cause of her death, it is most commonly attributed to Addison’s Disease. In our time, those who suffer from this disease are expected to enjoy a normal life span. Few would deny that this represents real medical progress, and that institutional expertise often produces admirable results.
However, the pursuit of medical progress and the circulation of health matters between ourselves are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they ought to be complimentary. The problem, then, is not that experts and the institutions that support them exist and are at work, but that the kind of care for health that can only be undertaken as a low hum of daily describing and reporting and diagnosing and treating has been smothered by the seeming sophistication of plastic-word describing and reporting and diagnosing and treating, and we are reduced to relying on experts when we ought to take care of ourselves.
Perhaps no aspect of our lives has suffered from this smothering of our ability to look after ourselves as what is now summarised as ‘mental health’. Old people’s tears of loneliness – including on account of their Covid self-isolation; young people’s slump of disaffection – including on account of their Covid estrangement from friends; parents’ palpitations of anxiety – including on account of their Covid confinement to home; students’ demotivation – including on account of the Covid cancellation of exams: all, and so much more, described as problems of ‘mental health’ and thereby at once robbed of their real significance and submitted to blanket solutions determined upon by professionals.
Care for our own and one another’s bodies and minds should circulate between us as easily as it circulated between Jane and Cassandra Austen, as easily as gossip about love and musings about gowns. But its circulation has largely been suspended by the creep to ubiquity of the concept of ‘health’, which has destroyed our confidence to look after ourselves and one another. So much so that when it comes to caring for our own children, we are deprived of proper faith in their native vigour and immunity and submit them to an ongoing medical trial whose medium- and long-term effects are unknown and whose short-term effects are already established as worrying.
Lost for words to describe and therefore understand the welfare of our children, we appeal to Chris Whitty to know what is best for them.
* * *
The most sinister moment in Pörksen’s account of the rise of plastic words is his claim that they displace, not only more nuanced, vernacular words, but also the silence that used to surround them. There is nowhere, Pörksen argues, that ‘progress’ is not important, no corner in which ‘development’ is not desirable, no instant when ‘communication’ does not occur.
Our concept of ‘health’ is fulfilling Pörksen’s grim prediction, inserting itself as a stake in the most out-of-the-way corners of our lives. We speak of “emotional health”, of “financial health”, of “relationship health”, of “personal health”, of “social health”, of “healthy eating”, a “healthy planet” and “healthy lifestyles”. There is no nook in which ‘health’ is not a possibility, no cranny in which expert advice must not be sought.
Jane Austen could leave her talk of health matters as easily as she could take them. She could dither blithely about her new gown and report breezily on her neighbour’s romance. But in our Covid era, there is no domain in which health is not at stake. Even gowns, even romance, fall under its sober shadow, as we browse in shops with sanitized hands and masked faces, and flick past the vaccination status of love prospects on Tinder.
Now, there is talk of ‘health’ everywhere and everywhere is a ‘health centre’: surgical masks handed out at the doors of churches; sanitized hands waved to the music at rock concerts; and experimental medicines administered in the classrooms of schools.
Dr. Sinead Murphy is an Associate Researcher in Philosophy at Newcastle University.
The Covid vaccine roll-out for healthy 12-15 year-olds is due to begin this week, but scientists remain concerned about the likely side effects. Some teachers tell me their schools still aren’t fully aware of the role they are supposed to play – “I can see it becoming a minefield”, said one teacher at a school in Yorkshire – and there seems to be some confusion among parents about the power they hold. Can they withhold their consent for the vaccination of their children or not?
Parents will be sent consent forms but only, it seems, as a formality since children who are deemed ‘competent’ (the assessment of which contains no set of defined questions) will be able to overrule the decisions of their parents anyway. This is of a piece with the Government’s decision to push ahead with its roll-out despite being told by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that “there is considerable uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the potential harms” of Covid vaccination in healthy teenagers and that – given the small risk Covid poses to healthy 12-15 year-olds – the “margin of benefit… is considered too small”.
The JCVI is “generous” in its assessment, according to an executive at a pharmaceutical company writing for the Daily Sceptic. (He, by the way, believes vaccines are among the “three greatest medical innovations”, so could hardly be labelled “anti-vax”!) Responding to the data, he says there is a “serious enough” risk of children developing myocarditis after vaccination (inflammation of the heart muscle, the long-term consequences of which aren’t fully understood) whereas the benefits of vaccination are “not well quantified” by the JCVI. The body also fails to properly consider the risk of other conditions following vaccination.
Professor Adam Finn sums up the situation by saying the vaccination of children would not – in normal times – have been approved because of the possible risks. He believes that parents are justified in waiting to allow their children to get ‘jabbed’ until these risks are better understood. But therein lies the problem. What – if anything – can parents do to delay the vaccination of their children?
These – undoubtedly – aren’t normal times. If they were, the Covid vaccine would not have been approved for healthy children until it had been fully investigated, says Professor Adam Finn. He adds that parents are justified in waiting until more is understood about the risks of vaccinating children before getting their teenagers ‘jabbed’. The Timeshas the story.
Professor Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, says that in normal times, the vaccine would not have been recommended for widespread use in children until the long-term consequences of rare side effects had been fully investigated.
Parents are justified in waiting until the risks are clearer before getting their teenagers vaccinated and the NHS needs to spell out the uncertainty over long-term effects better, he argues on this page.
He fears that if some children eventually suffer lifelong health risks without being told of known concerns, trust in other vaccination programmes and wider Government health advice will be undermined. …
Given the huge uncertainty over the extent of the risks, Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, is concerned that parents and children have not fully understood the concerns that gave the JCVI pause and led to months of agonising over whether children should be offered the jab.
Finn insists that doctors need to be transparent about the “extremely uncommon” risks. He says that expert disagreement over possible side effects “cannot be an argument to downplay important information or to present the evidence as clearly pointing only in one direction when it doesn’t”.
An NHS leaflet to be given to children says only that “most people [suffering heart inflammation] recovered and felt better following rest and simple treatments”.
Writing with Guido Pieles, the consultant cardiologist who advised the JCVI, Finn explains that U.S. cardiologists are seeing signs of scarring in the hearts of otherwise healthy teenagers who suffer rare post-vaccine inflammation.
While they say that it is “perfectly possible that these changes will resolve completely over time”, they warn that such scarring is known to carry a risk of “life-threatening arrhythmias or sudden cardiac arrest”.
As coronavirus vaccines are so new, it is not yet known if the same serious long-term dangers will result. However Finn and Pieles said that “in normal times a rare, new and poorly understood process of this kind would be painstakingly studied over a longer period before any decisions were made”.
Given the pandemic, they acknowledge that many believe “we currently don’t have the luxury of time for more evidence”, making it much harder to issue authoritative advice.
Finn and Pieles suggest that parents consider waiting six months or so until the longer-term consequences of heart changes start to become clear, saying: “This is not a decision that needs to be rushed, and choosing to wait for more evidence is perfectly legitimate.”